Graham Parker Displays His Tender Side: 2016 Review

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Graham Parker at City Winery NYC, April 7 2016 (Photo: Greg Brodsky)

Graham Parker at City Winery NYC, April 7 2016 (Photo: Greg Brodsky)

The smart songwriting and sarcastic wit – things Graham Parker has been known for since he burst onto the British music scene in the late ’70s with a flurry of superb albums and press clippings – were on full display at City Winery‘s NYC location on April 7, 2016. But so was the oft-overlooked tender side of Parker’s lyrics and guitar playing. The singer-songwriter was in town for just the second night of the spring U.S. edition of his duo performances with longtime colleague Brinsley Schwarz.

Those expecting a setlist of Parker radio hits like “Local Girls,” “Back to Schooldays” or his cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” won’t be hearing those since they require a full band and don’t work with just two guitars. But you do get a strong sampling of the deep Parker catalog with many well known cuts like “White Honey,” “Don’t Ask Me Questions,” “Passion is no Ordinary Word” and “The New York Shuffle.” Plus many rarities like “When the Lights Go Down” and overlooked gems like his recent “Flying Into London.”

And there he was, wearing his trademark sunglasses and performing beautifully on guitar, his voice growling here and then tender there, singing – and talking about – his take on news topics and taking love for granted. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself; sadly, he didn’t perform that 1983 gem.)

Early on, Parker seized upon the headlines of the U.S. Presidential races and offered his perspective: “Thank God we’re English. We have a lot of fun watching your political scene.”

And he, of course, offered no lack of self-deprecating stories including an obscure song that he wrote and performed on a long-forgotten Rick Springfield movie soundtrack (Hard To Hold) from 1984.  “I wrote this song because in those days if you coughed loudly down a microphone and called it a soundtrack album, it would sell a million. I wrote this song and promptly forgot about it forever… apart from the check.”

Parker said that he had to look up one song, “When The Lights Go Down,” on YouTube in order “to re-learn it.”

For “The New York Shuffle,” Parker switched its arrangement from a “hard full-on rocker” to one more appropriate to its title. The reggae-tinged “Don’t Ask Me Questions” featured one of many terrific Schwarz solos. The one-time pub rock guitarist knows the Parker canon well as both a member of Parker’s once and future (?) backing band The Rumour and as his frequent live performing companion when Parker tours as a duo.

Watch Parker and Schwarz perform “The New York Shuffle” later that month

Among many other highlights were “Flying Into London,” from 2015’s Mystery Glue, in which he sings: There’s just one leaf on the tree outside, It took all year to watch the others die, But I didn’t see the tears baby, pooling in your eye, I never did notice when other people cry.

Watch Parker perform “You Can’t Be Too Strong”

Parker, born Nov. 18, 1950, continues to tour. Go – if you can get a ticket – to see this entertaining evening of a crafty songwriter sharing his stories, both sung and spoken, with his audience for 90 minutes. You’ll be glad you did. Click here for tickets.)

Related: Our interview with Graham Parker

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Greg Brodsky
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  1. Person Who Knows Stuff
    #1 Person Who Knows Stuff 28 December, 2016, 11:56

    The song is called ‘Protection’, not ‘Can’t Get No Protection’…plus it’s on “Live Alone In America” done solo…

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